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Not an EggshellWalker
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Registered: 07/18/03
Posts: 7,991
Loc: Cave of the Patriarchs
High-Level Biowarfare Lab to be Placed in Boston
    #3038434 - 08/23/04 03:38 AM (13 years, 9 months ago)

Fear follows plan to build more deadly-disease labs

Boston -- Klare Allen leaned against her rusty pickup truck and watched the wind break off tiny bits of ash from her smoldering cigarette, carrying them across a giant parking lot in the south Boston district of Roxbury.

Now, the parking lot is no more than a swath of concrete tucked between a busy expressway, a medical school, a state prison and a densely populated residential neighborhood.

If the U.S. government has its way, the parking lot will be home to a biosafety Level 4 -- or maximum security -- laboratory, where scientists will study the deadliest pathogens in the world, such as anthrax, smallpox and the Ebola virus.

U.S. Department of Health officials say the planned National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories at Boston University is critical to America's war on terror. Allen is afraid that the wind that carries ashes from her cigarette may blow lethal viruses into the neighborhood where she lives.

"All I need to hear is 'anthrax -- Roxbury.' 'Ebola -- Roxbury.' 'Smallpox -- Roxbury,' " said Allen, a mother of four and organizer for a Roxbury environmental group. "I understand that science is very important. But you are bringing terrorism stuff here."

Her fears are emblematic of a larger debate over the place of scientific research in the post-Sept. 11 era of international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Such opposition surfaced when UC Davis applied to the National Institutes of Health to build a similar Level 4 lab. In February 2003, the City Council voted unanimously to oppose the lab, saying the proposal was too divisive. The Davis plan was turned down by the NIH in October.

Officials say the high-efficiency filtration system and state-of-the-art security at the Boston lab will make it virtually unassailable and safe. But critics, including numerous scientists across the country, say no technology can eliminate the threat of human error, accident or terrorist attack.

"The question is whether to do things that carry risk," said Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota.

While there are hundreds of Level 3 labs in hospitals and universities throughout the country, carrying out research on dangerous pathogens such as anthrax, botulism and the plague, Level 4 labs carry a heightened risk because only they are empowered to study biological agents, including Ebola, with no known antidote or vaccine.

Terrorists allied with groups such as Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network have said in intercepted messages and on Islamic Web sites that they were considering using biological weapons against the United States. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes and subsequent anthrax attacks prompted the Bush administration to push for intensified research on potential biological weapons.

"To know that we can do this research and not do it would be irresponsible," said Rona Hirschberg, a senior program officer at the NIH.

The biodefense budget of Hirschberg's agency, the arm of the Department of Health and Human Services that oversees such research, soared from $53 million in 2001 to $1.6 billion in 2004. Last fall, it assigned two new major Level 4 labs to be built in Boston and Galveston, Texas, in addition to six Level 4 labs that already exist across the country, to study and develop vaccines against the world's most dangerous viruses. The new facilities, each costing nearly $200 million, should be up and running in three years.

"There are people out there who are interested in using biological agents against us, and we have to be prepared as best we can to face those threats. We don't have in place at this time all the research that has to be done to be protected," said Hirschberg, who picked the locations for the new labs.

But Patricia Hynes, professor of environmental health at Boston University, said that such labs, and the kind of research they undertake, only increase the target opportunities for terrorists.

"Take the atomic bomb," Hynes said. "What we developed has proliferated, and now we are afraid it might end up in the hands of terrorists -- and there is no reason to believe the same doesn't happen to these agents."

Lola Vollen, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, said that the creation of such labs in the era of genetic engineering is pointless because terrorists "can now create organisms that you cannot predict.''

"Smallpox vaccine is only going to be effective if there's a smallpox attack, but you can't predict what pathogen is going to be released," she said.

Vollen said she was concerned that scientists with experience in the proliferating Level 4 labs could be hired by terrorists.

"What happens with the knowledge that we've trained when these people are decommissioned, or when they go elsewhere?" said Vollen, a critic of U.S. biodefense efforts.

Mark Klempner, a provost at Boston University Medical Center who will direct the Boston lab, and Kevin Tuohey, Boston University Medical Center's public safety chief, said the lab would have a sophisticated, multilevel security system designed to prevent break-ins or theft of agents, as well as accidental dissemination of deadly viruses.

"There's been a need for these new labs for quite a while," Klempner said. "This is a very high priority."

The Level 4 lab will be located deep inside a seven-story building of compressed concrete and stainless steel and will take up only 15 percent of the building. Negative pressure will prevent particles from floating out of the laboratory, and air filters will pressure-cook the lab's air before it leaves the building, Tuohey said. Lab workers will have to go through multiple checkpoints, explosives detectors, metal detectors and iris scans before they are allowed into the laboratory.

"It does sound like a movie," Klempner said.

But accidents do happen. In February, a researcher at Fort Detrick, a Defense Department Level 4 facility in Frederick, Md., was quarantined for three weeks after she accidentally pricked herself with a needle that contained Ebola virus while experimenting on mice. She exhibited no signs of the disease. Another researcher at the same facility tested positive in 2002 for exposure to anthrax spores, which were released into an adjacent hallway and office.

In 2003, a parcel from the Ohio Department of Health containing bird innards infected with West Nile virus exploded at a Federal Express depot, scattering infected bird brain matter.

"I don't know that anybody can really tell us how safe or how risky these places really are," said Kahn of the University of Minnesota.

For Allen, who has organized a neighborhood group called Safety Net, it is too much of a gamble. She has plastered the neighborhood with leaflets that call the planned facility a "bioterror" lab and warn: "You could die and not know why!"

As a result of her campaign, alarm has spread among the residents of Roxbury, an impoverished, crowded neighborhood of more than 55,000 people, where residents often relax on the narrow front steps of their tiny pastel- colored houses.

"I don't think it's a good idea to build something like that in the middle of the community," said Aidee Pomales, assistant coordinator of a community center that runs summer and after-school programs for children three blocks from the proposed lab site.

"We're going through a difficult time in this day and age. There are terrorists who want to hurt us," Pomales said. "But maybe the lab should be built in a desert somewhere."
Biosafety network

The federal government is building a network of maximum security, or Level 4, biosafety laboratories. It has approved plans for labs in Boston and Galveston, which would join six other Level 4 labs located at:

-- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.

-- U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, Frederick, Md.

-- National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

-- University of Texas, Galveston

-- Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, San Antonio

-- Georgia State University, Atlanta
Classifying labs' hazard levels

To oversee research on dangerous disease-causing agents, the National Institutes of Health sets conditions for laboratories at various levels, depending on the hazards involved.

Biosafety Level 1

-- Used for bioagents not known to consistently cause disease in healthy adults.

-- Standard microbiological laboratory practices and controls are employed and tailored to the specific work to be conducted. For example, work on open benchtops that are easily cleaned and impervious to water. Use of lab coats, safety glasses and gloves is recommended.

-- Where they are located: High school or college labs and research institutions.

Biosafety Level 2

-- Used for a broad spectrum of bioagents present in the community and associated with human disease of moderate severity. Examples include hepatitis B virus, measles and salmonella.

-- Limited access separated from public areas with a posted BSL-2 biohazard sign on lockable doors. BSL-1 practices and controls plus enhanced microbiological practices that are identified before work begins.

-- Where they are located: Research institutions, essentially all hospitals and medical and veterinary schools, dental offices and medical laboratories.

Biosafety Level 3

-- Used for bioagents with potential for aerosol transmission that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease by inhalation if left untreated. An example is Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

-- Workers are immunized for agents handled or potentially present. There are vaccines and therapies available.

-- Biosafety Level 2 practices and controls plus controlled access with a posted BSL-3 biohazard sign, and appropriate biological safety cabinets, such as those with controlled airflow or those that are totally enclosed. Workers use protective lab clothing, eye and face protection, gloves and respiratory protection as needed.

-- Materials being removed are sterilized by heat and pressurized steam; all waste is disinfected and disposed of according to local, state and federal regulations.

-- Where they are located: Biological research institutions, hospitals and medical and veterinary schools.

Biosafety Level 4

-- This is the highest level of containment for biological organisms and is used for dangerous and exotic bioagents that pose a high risk of life- threatening disease and for which there is no available vaccine or therapy. An example is Ebola virus.

-- Work is performed in full-body, air-supplied, positive pressure personnel suits or totally enclosed airtight biological safety cabinets called gloveboxes.

-- The facility is a separate building or isolated area within a building, with an interlocked double door entry, BSL-4 biohazard warning signs posted on all doors, and dedicated air supply, exhaust, vacuum and decontamination systems.

Source: Bioscience and Health Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

So long as you are praised think only that you are not yet on your own path but on that of another.

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The Duk Abides

Registered: 05/17/03
Posts: 94,392
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Re: High-Level Biowarfare Lab to be Placed in Boston [Re: Ravus]
    #3038476 - 08/23/04 03:58 AM (13 years, 9 months ago)

Yeesh! :doh: Here we invade a country for having "weapons of mass destruction" while we play with such things as Ebola...Can anyone say....in-fucking-sane?

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Not an EggshellWalker
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Registered: 07/18/03
Posts: 7,991
Loc: Cave of the Patriarchs
Re: High-Level Biowarfare Lab to be Placed in Boston [Re: Le_Canard]
    #3038483 - 08/23/04 04:00 AM (13 years, 9 months ago)

I wouldn't worry about it. It'll raise the natural immune system of the American people, especially near that "crowded residential area" they mentioned

So long as you are praised think only that you are not yet on your own path but on that of another.

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Drunken' Irish
Registered: 07/23/04
Posts: 422
Last seen: 10 years, 9 months
Re: High-Level Biowarfare Lab to be Placed in Boston [Re: Ravus]
    #3038569 - 08/23/04 05:16 AM (13 years, 9 months ago)

To me, it seems impossible that the labs wouldn't also be host to creating new virus's. But hey, that's just my thought. It's gay that we even need to study such things in fear of them being used on us.

Well, our country brought it upon us, they best do whatever they can to take it off. Too bad they don't know what the fuck their doing.

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Inhale to theChief
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Registered: 10/18/02
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Re: High-Level Biowarfare Lab to be Placed in Boston [Re: Le_Canard]
    #3039076 - 08/23/04 12:14 PM (13 years, 9 months ago)

What are you talking about?!?! We have the LORD on our side! We fight in the name of all that is holy and good! With god on our side, we can never lose! We musn't allow those dark skinned devil worshiping BARBARIANS to obtain the same weapons that we use! Praise the lord!

Yeah spinnin' around again
yea caught in a tailspin

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Fire It Up

Folding@home Statistics
Registered: 12/26/03
Posts: 1,398
Last seen: 4 months, 20 days
Re: High-Level Biowarfare Lab to be Placed in Boston [Re: ChiefThunderbong]
    #3039230 - 08/23/04 01:11 PM (13 years, 9 months ago)

so they are building a new McDonnalds in that area.....cool.


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